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- In Season: August 29, 2014 updated
Mike Cerny did not know where life would take him after graduating in 2001, but what he did know was that he did not want anyone to experience the living conditions he did after leaving Calvin’s campus.
The Calvin alumnus moved from the dorms to his first apartment after landing a job in Chicago. According to Cerny, the apartment was something out of a bad dream.
“Everything that could go wrong with renting an apartment happened to us,” Cerny said in a MLive interview. “It had centipedes, the tenants below were always throwing parties and it had thin floors. Everything was always a temporary fix from the landlord.”
The business and economics major’s bad experience inspired him to launch his own housing and rental home review site, DoNotRent.com.
“Users can search and write a good or bad review of apartments, student housing and rental homes,” he said.
Cerney believes that prospective renters who use his site can avoid the kind of negative renting situation he encountered in Chicago.
The site was launched last week. In addition to the website, DoNotRent.com will launch a mobile site that can be accessed via cell phone. This customized mobile site should be available in the next 60 days.
DoNotRent.com is quickly rising in the number of users and reviews. It is currently one of the top three apartment review sites across the United States.
DoNotRent.com permits renters and landlords to share their rental experiences by posting positive or negative reviews of their visits to apartments as well as their personal experience with rental properties.
Cerny hopes this site will serve as a resource for students and anyone is seeking to rent an apartment or home.
“Users can check apartment availability, moving resources, browse nearby businesses, rental data and send a message to other reviewers to ask questions about an apartment complex,” Cerny said.
Unlike its competitors, DoNotRent.com allows its viewers to use social media like Twitter or Facebook to network with reviewers for further information about their living experiences.
“We are the only site that allows renters to not only search and write reviews of apartments they rented but also search and write reviews of apartments they toured from their mobile device,” said Cerny.
Because Cerny hopes to offer balanced reviews, the site also gives landlords a chance to respond to the negative comments posted about their property and the chance to post repairs or upgrades to their property.
“We’re trying to keep a neutral stance between the renters and the landlords,” Cerny said. “Our goal is to provide a platform for users to search and write unbiased, honest reviews so other renters can make an informed decision about renting an apartment.”
Another one of Cerny’s goals is to provide inspiration for college students. He wants to encourage current students, including those who will soon graduate.
“I was hoping I could be an inspiration and resource for other students interested in starting online ventures,” he said.
Cerny is aware of the tumbling job market students face after graduation, but Cerny hopes that his story will inspire all students to follow their quirky ideas, because they never know where their experiences can lead them.
“My advice to students who have an idea they are thinking about turning into a business is be ready to commit your life and countless hours to your business, learn from your failures, always be ready to adapt and build your team early,” Cerny said. “In my opinion it’s better to fail trying than to have not tried at all, but make sure you set yourself up for success.”
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